by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
Instead of transforming our culture, the church is being transformed by the culture.
Sermons being promoted with sexual images, worship being infiltrated by secular songs, the preaching platform shared with Star Wars characters – yes, these are just samples of the efforts taken by many churches to make Christianity “relevant” to our modern culture. Church growth experts tell us these “adjustments” are necessary if we want Christianity to survive the tides of cultural change.
However, when we approach Christianity in the above manner, three drastic results follow.
First, Christianity becomes a man-centered system of beliefs. Like a person picking and choosing different foods at a buffet, each of us can pick and choose what we want to include in our own version of Christianity: If church is “cool” and “fun,” then we can be cool and still have fun enjoying the things of this world – a far cry from Jesus’ call of self-denial:
If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24, 25).
Second, Christianity loses its power. The focus of bringing people to Christ begins to center around the latest trends and church growth methods. These are supposedly the key to unlocking the hearts of the “un-churched.” As our culture changes, these will also change so that we can maintain a message that is appealing to our audience. Definitely a different evangelistic approach than the Apostle Paul:
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified…and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
Third, Christianity loses its uniqueness. When the Gospel is presented with all of the regalia of cultural relevance and excitement, it loses its distinction. Instead of being a channel of transformation in our culture, it becomes transformed by the culture (see Romans 12:2). Thus, the Christian faith becomes merely another system of thought that blends into the cultural landscape. What a sad result when, in contrast, we have the opportunity to share with others the unique message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… For in it the righteousness of God is revealed (Romans 1:16, 17).
So while we may adapt our method of presenting the Gospel we must never change, water down, distort or cheapen the message. We must not be so “open minded” that we accept virtually any practice, phenomenon or teaching. Instead, be “Bereans” who wisely question, evaluate and discern. Any methodology that alters the Gospel message itself or compromises the way we live out our faith must be rejected. The Lord Jesus will be the final judge of all methods, techniques and teachings, as well as those who propagate them (1 Corinthians 4:5).